'Advaniji did not praise Chouhan to put down Modi'

With senior BJP leader LK Advani’s comments on Gujarat Chief Minister Narendra Modi sparking a controversy, party president Rajnath Singh yesterday claimed there had been a misinterpretation.

His blessings: LK Advani had said that while Modi’s Gujarat was already developed, Chouhan’s Madhya Pradesh was backward when they assumed their charges as the chief ministers. He went on to compare Chouhan to Vajpayee. File pic

The BJP sought to play down the controversy created by Advani terming achievements of Madhya Pradesh Chief Minister Shivraj Singh Chouhan better than those of Narendra Modi.

Blame it on media
“Advani’s statement was misinterpreted,” Singh said when asked about the comparison Advani made between Chouhan and Modi at a party conclave in Gwalior on Saturday.

Singh said, “I have said already that if there is a popular leader in the country, it is Narendra Modi.” He did not agree that Advani pitted Chouhan against Modi as a prime ministerial candidate.

He also denied reports of a “cold war” in the BJP over the choice of the prime ministerial candidate. “Whatever decision I have to take, I will take after calling a meeting of the central parliamentary board,” he said.

In Delhi, party general secretary Rajiv Pratap Rudy said there was “complete misrepresentation” of Advani’s remarks.He said Advani had praised all BJP chief ministers in his speech at Gwalior.

“Like a statesman, he carried a positive word for every chief minister,” Rudy said. He added that it was natural to shower praise on a leader of the state where an event is being held to boost the morale of party workers.

I’m not in race
Even Chouhan tried to quell the controversy yesterday. “I want to say with all humility that Advani first praised Narendra Modi for his excellent work. He then praised Raman Singh (Chhattisgarh Chief Minister)... So he did not praise any individual,” he said.

He also refuted suggestions that Advani appears to be backing him for the country’s top job against Modi. “Narendra Modi is my senior, an elder brother. Raman Singh is also senior to me. Leave alone being number one, or number two, I am not even at number three,” Chouhan said.

The controversy
Comparing Chouhan’s development model with that of Modi, Advani had said that the Madhya Pradesh chief minister deserved more credit. He argued that Chouhan, the chief minister of a “Bimaru” state, had brought about considerable progress during his tenure, while Modi only improved an already economically well-off Gujarat.

“Bimaru” — means sickly in Hindi) — has been an acronym for Bihar, Madhya Pradesh, Rajasthan and Uttar Pradesh, the four north Indian states that are viewed as laggards in terms of economic development.

Advani was reported to have said that while Modi’s Gujarat was already developed, Chouhan’s Madhya Pradesh was backward when they assumed their charges as the chief ministers, and went on to compare Chouhan to former Prime Minister AB Vajpayee.

His statement triggered a debate in the BJP, and was seen as an attempt to scuttle Modi’s chances of becoming the prime ministerial candidate of the party.

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